“Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision and gives us the “right stuff” to turn our dreams into reality.” ~ James Womack

 

This fleeting weekend appeared to be steeped in and oozing with the ideals of commitment. It certainly didn’t start out that way with this commitment “thing” being the core and focus of the two days that oddly whisked right by, but so be it. It was.

I hadn’t started thinking about it – commitment – until I received a frantic phone call from one of the kids who signed up to attend last night’s Midnight Run. She was exasperated that kids were dropping out with strange excuses from what has always been such a highlight of our many months that go by: homeless outreach in the center of New York City’s west side, late at night, extending ourselves to people who, under no other circumstance would we ever meet. And yes, that last line is something I hear myself say time after time to the kids as I brief them before each Run so they have a clear understanding of what it is we do when we head downtown, cars and a van laden with hot chili and coffee, clothing and blankets, toiletry items and eager teenage volunteers…this is what we do, I tell them. We extend ourselves to people who under no other circumstances would we meet. And they change our lives. Forever.

My volunteer, a young girl with a passion and intensity I don’t often see, was on the phone with me, frantic about this thing we discuss, this “commitment” we make to participating in the monthly homeless outreach, “What will we do if we don’t have enough sandwiches or volunteers?” Her panic was contagious and I found myself growing disappointed and angered by the idea of someone putting their name on a list to volunteer and then, at the 11th hour, dismissing it all as okay to bail, when it never is okay to simply walk away from a commitment and not honor it in some positive way. Perhaps, it’s me, I think. Perhaps I forget that not everyone sees commitment as I do…my bad, I guess.

But, I started this process of wondering what would have happened this weekend if Rob decided to not make a 7 a.m. plane from California to get back to New York in time to make the chili that we bring on our Runs for the men and women who are hungry and waiting for us? And, I keep wondering, what if I decided to just chuck the idea of showing up at the photo shoot I had at 5 in the afternoon yesterday before the Run, dismissing the family that hired me to photograph their patriarch on his 75th birthday? What if Jeremy and Bridget and Christina said “screw it all, it’s raining and we’d rather stay up in Quincy, Massachusetts than get into the car and drive for four hours and then do the Run? And what if all the volunteers in all of the groups that take part in the Midnight Run just shrugged their shoulders and blew it all off? Then where would we be, beyond the Run and then some?

Commitment to the Run is rarely an issue. Am I cavalier enough to believe that kids no longer need to be taught accountability? I always felt that the Pied Piper nature of our Run helped bring kids into the fold, so that they could learn the responsibility of caring for something well beyond their own needs.

Imagine my complete shock and awe when we met up with the hearty group last night who chose to go! There they all were, minus only two who blithely bailed, without foresight, leaving us without the required 15 bagged lunches apiece. But those kids who came made up for those who didn’t in their desire to make right what was wrong. We took our chili and our sandwiches, our blankets and our bagged lunches and toiletries, our collected clothes and ourselves and ended up having one of the better runs of a long time. We saw folks I hadn’t seen in ten or more years. We made new friends with those “just passing through.” I witnessed story-telling between the homeless and our kids and best of all, I watched as new friends hugged each other, with the well-wishes of those we came to serve, asking that we stay safe in those darkest hours of the early morning.

It’s good, this sense of commitment those who attend have. It’s part of the journey that will last with them for a lifetime. I know this to be true: I had the pleasure of bumping into a former student last week who is now a mother of a lovely 8 year old boy. Her first thoughts were about the Run and how the folks on the street were. She told me that she recently saw a man she had met years ago at our Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless and although she wasn’t certain he’d remember her, she went up to say hello to him. Not only did he remember her, he pulled out of his pocket an old, worn wallet and pulled out an equally old, worn photograph. It was of he and she at that Thanksgiving Dinner many years ago. How’s that for memory-making?

Hard not to think of that memory not being given the chance to exist, if this woman chose not to honor her commitment to volunteer, isn’t it?

Thank you’s, transitions and where we are now…or “That Was The Week That Was”

Last Sunday, we started what can only be described as a blitzkrieg clothing collection for those people in the outer boroughs of New York City and New Jersey whose lives were completely turned upside down by Hurricane Sandy…

Sandy came and went and in her wake, left hundreds of thousands of people stranded and paralyzed in a wave of destruction I certainly had never seen the likes of. Can any of us imagine what would have happened if the storm had been a Category 4 or 5? She came and she left and so many of us were completely taken off guard by what would ensue over the next twelve days.

 

No one was prepared for the destruction. No one was prepared for the prolonged loss of power. And truly, no one was prepared for the ground swell of kindness and generosity that followed. Our clothing collection spread from our group to others, a word of mouth event that resulted in the collection, sizing and sorting of hundreds and hundreds of bags of clothing for babies and children and ‘tweens and teens and adults in all sizes and age groups. People who had lost power, too, counted themselves lucky that the roof over their heads was still intact. They went through their closets and gave. They stood on long lines at COSTCO and bought diapers and formula, wipes and batteries. They gave.  They responded to Facebook pleas from us here in New York and they sent their contributions through the mail from places as far away as California and Wsconsin,  Arizona and Massachusetts. They gave.

 

Our living room filled with bags and boxes. Our front porch was always filled by the end of each day of gifts from the anonymous donor who simply responded to the call within themselves to help.  

 

Apartments in Manhattan became dropoffs. Last Sunday, in an effort to turn the disappointment of many who had trained to run the New York City marathon and couldn’t because of the storm, this “small group of committed citizens” held a fundraiser instead and brought clothing and goods and we filled up more space.

 

The collections continued. We knew it was for a limited time, but we gave it our all and yesterday, in all the boroughs and here in Westchester, we took what you had selflessly given us and distributed those gifts. A miracle was created.

 

You did it. You gave from your hearts and you gave silent thanks that your family and friends are safe. And from that very same place in my own heart, I humbly offer my thanks and continue the process of planning for our 23rd Annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless that we will hold here in Hastings-on-Hudson on Tuesday, November 20th.

 

When you sit around your Thanksgiving table in 10 days or so, I highly suspect that what you will be feeling on that day will be an unparalleled gratitude. Go with it. You earned it.

 

My deepest thanks.

 

Jeanne Newman

SHARE the Project, Inc.

 

NYC Clothing Drop Off Points – UPDATE

UPDATE: DROP OFF POINTS during business hours for Project SHARE:
SHARE the Project, Inc. clothing collection for the residents of
Breezy Point, Far Rockaways, and Staten Island. All children’s clothes
(all sizes) and adults clothing for those families who have lost so
much.
Three locations right NOW:
As One collecting donations for Project SHARE. NEEDED: children &
adult winter clothes at 18

45 bdwy, 3fl, open 6AM–8PM #SANDY

Zion Physical Therapy
1556 Third Avenue, Suite 211
New York, NY 10128
(Business hours)

Team In Training – NYC Chapter
LLS office at 475 Park Ave. South (between 31st and 32nd St.)
beginning Monday morning.

 
 

Aside

SHARE the Project, Inc.

“Take the time…share the experience”

November 3, 2012

It’s a chilly Saturday and many of us in New York, New Jersey and beyond are waking up to the new normal of no power, no heat and limited access to the outside world. Many of us are waking up to strange surroundings as we realize our homes have been damaged or destroyed and life as we had known it, has changed extensively.

Despite the loss, the shock and the awe of this devastation, we are a tough group, we New Yorkers, and at SHARE the Project, we decided to simply roll up our sleeves and help make the coming days a little easier for those who lost so much. Ours is an organization that has been a student-driven group since its inception in 1988.Many of the members who grew up as tireless volunteers in high school have stayed with us into their adulthood. And so all of us – kids and adults alike – are joining hands in this most recent project.

As we prepare for our annual flagship event, a Thanksgiving feast for over 500 homeless men, women and children, we are taking on another, more urgent need: a clothing collection for the residents of Breezy Point and the Far Rockaways and Staten Island. We are doing it because we can. It’s that simple. We are joining countless other New Yorkers in this effort to lend a hand in a quick and meaningful way. Won’t you please become part of the growing tradition that SHARE has exemplified for nearly 25 years? 

If you have clean winter clothing for infants, toddlers, children and adults, you can drop them off or mail them to:

SHARE the Project, Inc.

161 Broadway

Hastings-on-Hudson, NY  10706

 

There will be drop-off locations in Manhattan as well and they will be posted on this site.

https://sharingtheproject.wordpress.com

And please accept our deepest thanks, from our hearts to yours.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Newman, founder and Executive Director

SHARE the Project, Inc. dba Project SHARE

We are a public charity. Our 501©3 number is 01-0944154.

 

 

SHARE a Seat

at SHARE the Project’s

22nd Annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless

____________________________________________________________

What a wonderful way to SHARE!

One seat for a guest is $25

A table of ten is $250

“Take the time…SHARE the experience…”

Help us provide a warm and festive holiday meal

for those who might not be having one this year!

Your help benefits our children who volunteer and our greater community

 Payable by check to

SHARE the Project, Inc.

161 Broadway

Hastings on Hudson, NY  10706

By credit card, please visit our site at

http://tinyurl.com/3fpv4oh

SHARE the Project, Inc. is a public charity

Our 501(c)3 number is 01-0944154

A joyous and healthy holiday to all!

 

October 15, 2011

 

“…I once was lost but now am found, 
Was blind, but now, I see…”

 I sat in the kitchen, the gathering place for many a dialogue and intimate conversation in my lifetime, and shared stories with Bridget, my son Jeremy’s lovely girlfriend who was going on her very first homeless outreach with us last night. In an effort to explain this ”down the rabbit hole” experience that helps define the bulk of my adult life, I was the storyteller once again, talking about my three children, my family, and the influences in their lives, the people who boldly touched their souls. She had mentioned how much my son Jeremy spoke of the run to her and I wanted her to know why. Jeremy was only 9 years old when he went on his first Midnight Run outreach and I recall with genuine pride, how moved I was watching him hand out cups of hot coffee to the people of street, from the back of a van, saying, “I’m Jeremy, would you like some coffee?”

As Rob’s infamous chili bubbled on the stove, I spoke about the encampment under the West Side Highway, who I referred to as the Mole People’s upstairs neighbors. The names of those who lived in this section of Riverside Park read like a version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” There was Shorty, the Captain, Papa Doc and the Professor, Larry and Leon and the women Marianne and Nikki, whose dog was better cared for than the people he lived with.

I told her about Papa Doc, a former Herald Tribune newspaper man back in the day, who took a liking to Jeremy and how this particular person impacted my family’s life.

One early spring night on an outreach run, Papa Doc asked Jeremy what he was going to do over the upcoming spring break from school and Jeremy responded as any child of two working parents would. “Oh, nothing,” he said. ”My father’s working and my mom will probably go down to school to work. We’re not doing anything…” And it was then that Papa Doc crouched down to be level with my son and gently asked him, ”Jeremy, have I ever told you the story of the man who had no shoes? Well, he complained to everyone he met about this dilemma of his…until he met a man who had no feet.”

The sheer force of this story on my son, I told Bridget, was something palpable and lasting. Whether he remembers that moment or not, I couldn’t say, but I recall the look of clarity and astonishment on my young son’s face.

Catie, my youngest, grew up, from the time she was an infant, in the culture of this commitment to the disenfranchised, the disempowered. My recollections match those of some of our oldest street friends when they ask about her now and are stunned to learn that she will be 24 years old in less than a month. There have been sweet conversations about how she was passed from one person to another as a baby on the Run, these strangers who became our friends over the many years our lives intersected. And it was Catie who first introduced me to Sam, our ancient Japanese-American friend. She was eight years old then, and very comfortable on these monthly runs into the city. She had discovered him sitting on a small hillside in Riverside Park near the Boat Basin, where we were stopped, on the street above the below-ground Rotunda and she came to me begging for a blanket to cover his swollen arthritic knees.

Sam became her ally and confidante, a friendly grandfather who made her and her two brothers origami toys and ornaments out of papers he recycled from MacDonald’s and the area grocery stores. Sam wasted nothing and created beauty out of everything.

When Catie had become sick with a very stubborn infection in high school, missing several Runs, Sam folded 1,000 inch-long cranes for her, making a mobile out of them. Upon their completion, he made a wish to the gods that her health be restored, as the legend goes. Indeed, a week later, she was much better and on her way to recovery. The mobile, which she placed by her window in her bedroom is still there.

And although I am writing this a day after the run, it didn’t occur to me how coincidental life can be until the conversation I had last night with long-time friend Bernard Isaac, under the leafy branches of the huge trees in front of an entrance to Central Park. I told him about the article in the Times last week about Chris Pape, the graffiti artist who recreated famous masterpieces on the walls of the old Amtrak tunnel where Bernard and his crew lived. The murals were painted using spray paint and when I saw them, I knew I was in the presence of some surreal genius. We chatted about the old days of the Tunnel and the Boat Basin, of Riverside Drive and our mutual friends. It was then that Bernard shared the news of Leon’s death. The significance of this for me is twofold: I had just been speaking of Leon to Bridget just a few hours earlier and it was Leon who was my son Gabe’s connection, the gentle, quiet man who helped ease Gabe’s discomfort as a 9 year old on his first homeless outreach. It was Leon who asked Gabe about the lanyard he was making and it was Leon who walked away with a new lanyard, the skill in making another for himself after Gabe showed him how, and a new friend in my young son. It was Leon who helped Gabe overcome his shyness that evening in the park. My sadness over his death is real: I have never grown used to the loss of any of these fragile folks on the street. I doubt I ever will.

The weekend of family and friends, the Midnight Run and Rob’s chili, is coming to a close. While last month’s run may have been labeled “perfect”, this month’s run, for me, became all about the families I have: my own as well as those street people who impacted the lives of my kids as well as mine – and now Rob’s – in their simplicity and generosity of spirit.

While Rob napped, Jeremy called and told me he and Bridget arrived safely in Boston. Catie stopped by earlier and after I know Gabe is home from work, I’ll call him and we’ll have an opportunity to catch up. Family is defined in countless ways and I’m certain that despite my confusion over many other things in this life, family is something I have never lost sight or clarity of, near or far…homed or homeless. Somehow, none of that seems to matter really.

Aside

SHARE the Project, Inc.
dba Project S.H.A.R.E.

“Take the time…SHARE the experience”

September 28, 2011

Project SHARE’s 22nd Anniversary
Thanksgiving Dinner for the Homeless

For over 20 years, Project SHARE has helped guide high school and college students toward a clearer understanding of the social responsibilities required to ensure a brighter tomorrow for everyone. By transforming community service into social activism and by changing the idea of service “requirement” to “choice”, we lay the foundation for a culture and a society that is richer in understanding and acceptance of the disenfranchised, the dis-empowered and the poor.

Among the many service choices we offer, Project SHARE has been actively involved with outreach volunteer work within the homeless communities of both Westchester County and New York City, partnering with the Midnight Run, Inc. Our largest endeavor has been hosting an annual “family style” Thanksgiving Dinner for 500 men, women and children in the New York metro area. Approximately 300 students are involved every year in our holiday celebration. We do the event preparation and cooking ourselves, we provide buses to transport our guests, entertainment for all and babysitting for the children who come to share our feast, thus involving many within the community. This year’s dinner will take place on Tuesday, November 22nd at Congregation Kol Ami, 252 Soundview Avenue, White Plains, New York.

Last September, SHARE received its not-for-profit status and we are now a public charity. We rely heavily upon the contributions made by our friends to keep us afloat. This year, we have begun using the website http://www.indiegogo.com/Thanksgiving-Dinner-for-the-Homeless-1?a=146689&i=addr as a means of fundraising and it has been successful. 100% of the collected funds donated through this site goes to Project S.H.A.R.E. Please consider making a donation and then send this link along to 10 of your friends. It is really a simple way to make a donation that will help those in need.

Many thanks in advance,

Jeanne Newman
Executive Director and founder,
SHARE the Project, Inc. dba Project S.H.A.R.E.

See us on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXOdhMZ8rhI

SHARE the Project, Inc. is A PUBLIC CHARITY – Tax Exempt #01-0944154

September 17, 2011

On those rare occasions, there are those days and evenings that simply glide effortlessly by, leaving me with feeling that all can actually be right with the world. Yesterday was one of those days and nights. In between running errands for the night’s run, Rob and I went down to the riverfront here as guests of the Class of 1991, as they celebrated their 20th high school reunion. These “kids” were some of the very first group that gave Project SHARE its start and foundation in December of 1987. As I recall last night’s outreach, it is very hard not to think about those former students as I started another year with a new group.

This run was our first of the school year and the kids who signed up to go, like many runs before them, were an enthusiastic and generous group that worked together seamlessly as they got clothing and toiletry items in preparation for the trip to the city. These kids, the volunteers, don’t know me. They may know OF me, but gone are the days of planning and strategizing with my students in my classroom. Instead of relying on my position as teacher, we now rely heavily upon the social media of the day to communicate and build a base from which we launch our programs. The times they are a-changin’…

Somehow though, my monthly panic was eased once I was with them at the storefront and I watched them organize what needed to be done before we left for Manhattan to do this very intimate form of homeless outreach.

Our first stop was the perfect introduction to what proved to be the perfect run. Old friends of mine who I had known for nearly all of my 24 years with the organization greeted us under the leafy boughs of the trees that lined the avenue. Rob, also known as “The Chili Man”, had spent the day with me shopping for his well-known treat and cooked it slowly throughout the afternoon, worried about its taste and kick, with the needs of our street friends his only concern. And so, the chili and cornbread, bagged lunches, clothing, and toiletry items were an ample, heartfelt offering to those who waited patiently for us.

The kids became instantly engaged in helping this handful of men get what they needed and as they did, conversations started and the run was on its way.

A Jamaican man in a dark blue baseball cap came up to the truck where Rob was and in a soft voice told him how much he enjoyed the chili, thanking him for the food and his effort. I am always moved by the sincerity of those we serve, knowing full well that it is the volunteer who truly ought to be doing the thanking.

Our second stop was our largest, a popular stop for the kids on the run, where they have built relationships with the people who regularly wait in the shadows for our visits. No one was disappointed and after the summer’s hiatus, we were met and greeted with smiles and stories and hugs. Again, the chili was enormously appreciated. Again, the thank you’s moved me as I watched the group chat amongst the parked cars of our caravan. A Dominican family I met last year were there and I was thrilled to watch the kids speak with them in Spanish.

At one point, a heavyset gentleman approached me and said, “Mrs. Newman, do you remember me? Do you remember me, Mrs. Newman? It’s me, Timothy.” And I did. He was a long-ago street friend whose crack addiction and homelessness lead him down the slippery slope of depression until he was placed on Ward’s Island where he lost his drug habit and began dealing with his mental health issues. Timothy. The most polite man I know. Always asking about my children, my mother and at one point in the conversation, about my ex-husband.

“Mrs. Newman, how Is your husband?” he asked.
“I haven’t been married in some time, Timothy,” I replied.
“That’s okay. Mrs. Newman. How is he anyway?” was his response.

It’s difficult not to embrace the sincerity, the joy, the love of that conversation, of that well-meaning man whose path I crossed years ago when the homeless had such visibility on the streets of New York.

With farewell hugs and promises to see them all in October, we packed up and moved on to the third stop, where no one waited for us the shadows of the evening.

Our last stop was a familiar one and as soon as we stopped, the kids jumped out of the cars and started handing out the last of our sandwiches and chili, clothing and toiletry items, relaxed and full of conversation that lasted for some time as they settled into small groups with the homeless. They sat on the church stairs or on the pavement itself, talking and laughing and catching up after a summer away.

And in our truck, on the way home, the two boys who rode with us shared their stories of those they spoke with, as if they had just bumped into old friends they hadn’t seen in some time. And, when you think about it, that’s exactly what they did.

Home

According to Webster’s New Millenium Dictionary of English,


social justice, a noun, is defined as ‘the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society.My definition of social justice is illustrated by a phone call I received several months ago from my old friend Eddie, a formerly homeless man. The last time I saw him was in late February 2007, in Columbia-Presbyterian’s cardiac unit. He had dodged yet another metaphoric bullet surviving congestive heart failure. Today he called to tell me that after many years of homelessness and illness, he was finally home in Georgia, reunited with his wife, his children and continuing his ministry as he calls it, to help the poor and disenfranchised. “It’s the least I can do, Jeanne after what Project S.H.A.R.E. and all your kids have done for me and so many others.” Yes, a perfect example of social justice.

The teenagers who have been part of this community of givers have all contributed to helping right what is often a topsy-turvy world of injustice and inequity. Their efforts have been long-lasting and memorable.

This site is dedicated to all those who gave of themselves and to all those who received their many kindnesses.

Be safe. Be well. Be happy.

~ Jeanne Newman